Several days a week, Alissa Vogelsang unrolls her yoga mat, bows her head and flows through a series of poses that challenge her physically and mentally. The practice has become spiritual in nature, serving to ground and center her as she moves through her day. She belongs to Space on Seneca, a yoga studio that’s owned by her best friend Colleen. Ever since Alissa’s move back to Buffalo a year ago, she has become ingrained in the community and looks forward to her practice.
Along with family and friends, the Space on Seneca community will join Alissa at the start line of the 2022 Ride for Roswell. As they ride, they will be honoring Alissa and her battle with metastatic cancer.
Alissa’s Cancer Journey
Alissa was just two weeks shy of her 30th birthday when she received the news. She lived in New York City at the time and discovered a lump she assumed was a cyst. A trip to the doctor confirmed her worst fears: She had breast cancer.
“Nobody could ever prepare you for hearing those words: You have cancer. It feels like having the wind knocked out of you,” she says. “Imagine your worst fear come to life. Cancer didn’t care that I was only 29 years old. Cancer didn’t care that I was in great shape. It didn’t care what my marital status was or what my career path looked like. It didn’t care if I had time for cancer or if I was terrified of having it. Cancer doesn’t care. It just comes in and starts taking over.”
After being diagnosed, Alissa went through a series of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. She was in active treatment for almost a year before finally moving into remission. When she heard the good news, she exhaled, not knowing she’d been holding her breath since the beginning. From there, she resolved to get back to everyday life.
Fast forward three years. Alissa had just gotten back from a three-day yoga festival and felt a pain in her shoulder. She chalked it up to doing one too many chaturangas during her yoga practice and went to see an orthopedist. Concerned about the cancer returning to her breasts, she had been diligent about getting her MRIs and mammograms — but she had never thought about the rest of her body. As it turned out, she hadn’t pulled a muscle. The cancer was back, and it had metastasized.